Training Your Dog to Sleep in His Bed
Teaching your dog to sleep in his bed is a lot like training a child to use the toilet. Says Jim Cargill, owner of Buddy, "At first, he wasn't thrilled. [His dog bed] was thick and he was afraid to get on it." He goes on to explain, however, that after repeated encouragement, Buddy began to sleep on his bed more often and, eventually, sought it out as a place to rest and play with toys.
Professional dog trainers recommend a four-step process for training your dog to sleep in his bed and it is outlined below. Before you begin, choose a location for your dog bed separate from the family common space and free of cooling or heating vents that may distract your dog. Also, be sure to monitor your dog's behavior throughout the training process, noting extreme resistance that may be the result of allergies to the dog bed fabric or discomfort due to incorrect sizing.
Prepare your dog bed for introduction to your dog by transferring your scent to the bedding. Rub your hands over its cover and along its bolsters, seems and cushions. Once completed, ask other family members to do the same. Your dog is familiar with your scent. It reminds him that he is safe and comfortable and makes a foreign object less scary. Remember, a dog interacts with the world through his nose.
Once prepared, lead your dog to his new bed with his toys. Place the toys in the dog bed and place your hand on its cushion. Your dog may not volunteer to get on the bed. At this stage of training, that is ok. Pat his head and offer praise regardless of his decision.
Repeat step two, petting your dog and his bedding generously. If your dog refuses to get on the bed you may gently pick him up and place him atop its cushion. Lay down on the floor beside him to indicate that this is a place for sleeping. He may or may not lie down in the bed. Either way, you have made progress. Do not force his behavior. Rather, reward his efforts with a favorite treat or a long walk.
Repeat steps two and three and, this time, insist firmly but lovingly that he lay down. Do this by pressingly lightly on his hind quarters once he is on his dog bed. Again, pet and praise him throughout the process and after he has lain in bed for a few minutes, quietly walk away. He may or may not remain in the bed. No matter. Reward him for his cooperation.
The above approach works for most dogs but requires time, commitment, and above all, patience on your part. For some dogs, this process will take a few days. For others, it will require weeks of review. Whatever the case, repetition and positive reinforcement are key. Never use your dog bed as punishment and always commend him for cooperating. It's an old but true adage and particularly true here: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.